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Santa Fe has not had any Homeless Deaths Due to COVID

Written by Brian Davis on . Posted in Blog

The city of Santa Fe New Mexico owned a defunct college and so when the pandemic hit the community in March 2020, city leaders moved those without homes into the empty dormitories. The local government also contracted with local motels to be able a total of 300 people with both of these resources. The city government initially ran operations, but eventually management of the facilities was taken over by a private non-profit that already worked with those experiencing homelessness.  This quick response was funded largely through federal CARES act assistance.

New Mexico Continuum of Care Meeting

This dormitory model has stopped outbreaks within the shelters that many other cities have seen. The cities of Albuquerque and Gallup have both faced outbreaks of COVID within congregate shelters. In fact, the city of Gallup had a single individual infect the local shelter which then traveled to the Navajo nation reservation and was devastating to the fragile population living in the surrounding areas.

Dormitories and hotels have been used across the country to successfully keep vulnerable and unhoused folks safe from this deadly pathogen. Santa Fe has a comprehensive continuum including permanent supportive housing and, during the pandemic, has worked to reduce the number of people in congregate living facilities, which has helped move many into safe places to quarantine. But advocates report that they are still seeing steady streams of individuals from all age groups entering the homeless system. 

The local poverty rate is 12.4% overall, with 25% of the children living below the poverty level.  The state estimates that 12.3% of the population are behind on their rent at least one month since the pandemic started.  The area has a higher than average unemployment rate of 13%, and higher than the national average of people without health insurance at 14.8%. Especially during the pandemic economic downturn, these factors have contributed to many falling into homelessness. 

Advocates in Santa Fe report that service agencies have really stepped up to help in the face of this global health emergency. Many Continuum of Care (i.e. HUD-funded) agencies have donated staff time to help keep the emergency facilities operational and to open overflow facilities when necessary. Service workers have been putting in extra hours to staff the dormitory in order to keep people safe. 

Santa Fe is not as hostile to homeless people as some other cities in the state. Local unhoused folks have not had the conflicts with law enforcement that folks in other communities have faced. City officials are largely following CDC guidelines not to disrupt encampments during the pandemic, keeping contact with encampments to a minimum. Local advocates have worked to keep the community informed during the pandemic and to keep those without housing as safe as possible.  

Pandemic Cancels Homeless Count in Many Jurisdictions -Good Riddance

Written by Brian Davis on . Posted in Blog

By Brian Davis

Every January volunteers, under a mandate from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, march out to the streets and interview people experiencing homelessness in order to document numbers. Because of the pandemic many jurisdictions are cancelling their counts, and I hope the new HUD administration cancels this ritual for good.

HUD’s annual Point-In-Time (PIT) counts are meant to provide critical data about individuals living outside and in shelters, as well as demonstrate the overall need from year to year. But I find these piecemeal counts to be invasions of privacy and useless. Have service providers ever enacted any programmatic changes because more people were discovered living outside? Have any cities or counties announced that volunteers saw a huge number of expectant mothers and so they were immediately opening a shelter for new moms? As far as I am aware, little, if anything, positive has come of the PIT counts.  

Cities have dramatically different approaches to “counting,” and beyond training prior to counts, there is little local or national oversight of the process. Large numbers of people are missed in the count, such as those who ride public transportation all night, people who are staying with friends or family for the night, or those staying in vehicles, abandoned buildings and motel rooms (some of which are not officially counted as ‘homeless’ by HUD). The inadequacies of how the counts are collected give community leaders and the media a distorted picture of the extent of the problem. Media reports rarely explore the shortfalls of PIT data, but just emphatically state that homelessness was up or down over the last year.

Finally, a one day snapshot of homelessness does not equal a trend. Can you imagine the outcry if the local weather person said that because on January 23, 2018, it was 24 degrees and the same day in 2019 it was 12 degrees, this proves that global warming is a hoax?

The effort that goes into these annual counts could be much better used to move people into safe, decent, affordable and accessible housing. 

Read more:
Arkansas Cancels Count
San Jose Commentary on the Count
Perspective on the counts from Outside the US
San Antonio Cancels Count

COVID Vaccination and Homelessness

Written by admin on . Posted in Blog

As states roll out vaccinations, we encourage public health officials to make vaccinating people experiencing homelessness and homeless service front-line workers a top priority. Click here to view current state vaccination priority lists

Here are some specifics from the Centers on Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) on the COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S.: 

  • There are two COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized and recommended for use in the United States, and three other vaccines are currently in large-scale clinical trials. To learn more about the different vaccines for COVID-19 and how vaccines work, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines.html
  • COVID-19 mRNA vaccines teach our cells how to make a piece of a protein to trigger an immune response and build immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19. mRNA does not affect or interact with a person’s DNA, and the cell breaks down and gets rid of the mRNA as soon as it is finished using these instructions.Learn about mRNA vaccines and how they work: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/mrna.html
  • None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently authorized for use in the United States uses the live virus that causes COVID-19. You may have symptoms like a fever after you get a vaccine. This is normal and a sign that your immune system is learning how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Learn more about the facts behind COVID-19 vaccines: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/facts.html
  • How many people need to get a COVID- 19 vaccine for herd immunity?Herd immunity means that enough people in a community are protected from getting a disease because they’ve already had the disease or they’ve been vaccinated. Herd immunity makes it hard for the disease to spread from person to person, and it even protects those who cannot be vaccinated, like newborns. While experts don’t yet know what percentage of people would need to get vaccinated to achieve herd immunity, vaccination is a safer way to build protection than getting sick with COVID-19.Have a question about COVID-19 vaccines? See answers to our most frequently asked questions:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/faq.html

If your community or organization is in need of face masks for the personal protection of people experiencing homelessness from COVID, please contact us at info @ nationalhomeless.org to request free shipments of between 100-5,000 masks. 

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